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June 19, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:56am

Saudi crown prince should face investigation over Jamal Khashoggi killing, UN report says

By James Walker

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman should face further investigation over the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a UN report has said.

UN Special Rapporteur on extra-judicial executions Agnes Callamard said in her report, published today, that Khashoggi’s death “constituted an extrajudicial killing” for which Saudi Arabia is responsible.

Callamard said there is “credible evidence, warranting further investigation” that Bin Salman (pictured) and other high-level Saudi officials may be liable for Khashoggi’s murder.

But she also warned against a “disproportionate emphasis on identifying who ordered the crime”, saying the search for justice and accountability did not solely depend on “finding a smoking gun and the person holding it”.

She added that “no conclusion is made as to guilt” regarding bin Salman, only that there was “credible evidence meriting further investigation”.

Khashoggi was killed at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on 2 October last year. His body has never been found.

Callamard described the killing of a journalist as an “an act inconsistent with a core tenet of the United Nations, the protection of freedom of expression” in the report.

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The UN report is based partly on audio recordings of Khashoggi’s murder obtained by Turkish intelligence officers. Callamard said Khashoggi “could have been injected with a sedative and then suffocated using a plastic bag”.

The report said: “Sounds of movement and heavy panting could be heard in the remainder of the recordings.

“The sound of plastic sheets (wrapping) could also be heard. Turkish Intelligence concluded that these came after Mr Khashoggi’s death while the Saudi officials were dismembering his body.

“The Turkish Intelligence assessment identified the sound of a saw at 1.39pm [on 2 October 2018]. The Special Rapporteur and her delegation could not make out the sources of the sounds they heard.”

The Saudi regime has denied any involvement in the killing of Khashoggi, describing it as the result of a “rogue operation” by agents about which the crown prince had no prior knowledge.

Saudi has charged 11 suspects with Khashoggi’s murder, five of whom are understood to be facing the death penalty.

Callamard called on UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the UN Human Rights Council or the Security Council to demand a “follow-up criminal investigation” into the killing.

She has previously pushed for the trials of the 11 unnamed suspects in Saudi Arabia to be held in public, adding that the investigation into the killing should meet “international legal standards”.

She has now called on the Saudi trial to be suspended over concerns about how it is being carried out “behind closed doors”.

The report today said: “The Special Rapporteur has found that both the investigations conducted by Saudi Arabia and Turkey failed to meet international standards regarding the investigation into unlawful deaths.”

It went on to say that Saudi officials had not provided any information to the UN about evidence they may have collected from the consulate between 6 and 15 October.

Callamard also claimed to find evidence “pointing to the crime scenes having been thoroughly, even forensically, cleaned” – an indication that the Saudi investigation “may amount to obstructing justice”.

Other members of the United Nations were also criticised over their inaction in response to the killing.

The Special Rapporteur said she regretted that no international bodies or states came forward with offers to mediate between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to ensure proper access to the crime scene.

“Instead, it appears that other member states pondered rather only their own national and strategic interests,” Callamard said.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said today: “The UK Government condemns Jamal Khashoggi’s killing in the strongest possible terms and remains clear that anyone found responsible must be held fully accountable.

“The UK Government will study the Special Rapporteur’s report, and consider its findings.”

The US froze the assets of 17 Saudis in November last year over the murder. Its sanctions were welcomed in the UN report, which said sanctions should also be levelled against the assets of the crown prince “until and unless evidence is provided and corroborated that he carries no responsibilities for this execution”.

UK-based charity Article 19 welcomed the report for presenting “further compelling evidence that the murder of Jamal Khashoggi was premeditated, and carried out on the orders of high level Saudi officials”.

The charity’s executive director, Thomas Hughes, said: “It is imperative that the international community responds to this report by supporting criminal investigations to the acts of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his former adviser, Saud Alqahtani, and holds the Saudi state to account for this targeted murder of a journalist.

“The UN Secretary General can and must act if states do not.”

Picture: Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via Reuters

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